Ingrid Randoja and John Harkness pick the years best and worst.
The year 2000 was mediocre for movies. There were a few good films playing every week, but after you saw those, what was left? The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas? Most of the really great movies were released during the last two months of the year. And the news only gets worse. With the Hollywood writers strike looming, film companies are pushing through weak movies that otherwise wouldn’t have been made. The bright spot in all this is that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon restored our faith in the beauty of cinema.
John Harkness’s Top 10 Movies
This movie is the exclamation point at the end of 30 years of wire-assisted Asian martial arts films. Lee (The Ice Storm, Ride With the Devil) turns to the epics of his youth and Matrix fight coordinator Yuen Woo-Ping to offer Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chow Yun-Fat in gravity-defying combat and Yeoh and Chow discovering the truth beneath their long platonic relationship. And the tavern fight to end all tavern fights.
Soderbergh’s complex interweaving of narrative lines around the unwinnable drug war is highlighted by the director’s ability to juggle space and time and the breakout performances of Benicio Del Toro as a Mexican cop suspended between the legal and illegal worlds and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the suddenly wised-up wife of a respectable drug dealer.
It’s noisy and didactic, and Lee still has trouble ending movies, but he has more ideas than any other three directors combined. Bamboozled is a serio-comic examination of black images in American films, centred on a modern updating of “blackface” performance. Watching Bamboozled is like trying to find one’s way out of a socio-ethnic nightmare, only to find there is no way out.
The creation of The Mikado may seem an unusual concept for a director best known for his gritty emotional dramas, but it’s actually an aesthetic statement of purpose, as if Leigh, who loves actors, wants to show how much work is involved in making something look effortless. Exquisite performances, particularly from Jim Broadbent as W.S. Gilbert.
Shyamalan’s directorial tone is grandiose urban despair. His follow-up to The Sixth Sense brings Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson into an odd relationship when Willis turns up as the sole survivor of a train wreck, unharmed. Their rapport verges on unconscious, and Shyamalan does his best to exploit their contrasting images.
Transplanting Nick Hornby’s portrait of the artist as an aging record geek to Chicago, producer-star John Cusack shows exquisite taste in soundtrack hits and the generosity to allow the supporting players to outshine the star. Note especially Jack Black and Todd Louiso as the guys in the shop, and the ubiquitous Catherine Zeta-Jones and the resurgent Lisa Bonet as women in his confusing life.
Kadosh is an intimately realistic drama about an Orthodox couple in contemporary Israel whose marriage is in crisis because they’ve failed reproduce after 10 years of marriage. Gitai manages a neat trick here: though he makes no overt criticism of Orthodox Judaism, his camera traps the characters visually, setting up the claustrophobic style as a corollary for the trap the characters call home.
It’s easy to oversell this Sundance winner, which is the tiniest movie imaginable, the story of a single mom (Laura Linney) and her wastrel brother (Mark Ruffalo) who returns home in search of a loan. Lonergan’s no stylist, but he does write extraordinary precise and intimate dialogue. His characters are funny, but not the way characters are funny in movies, and he has the ideal star in the hitherto underused Linney (The Truman Show).
This is one of those gnomic Coen Brothers films, very funny if one is in on the joke, as self-absorbed as a black hole if one isn’t. George Clooney is Ulysses Everett mcgill, who escapes from a chain gang with John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson, ostensibly to find the haul from a long-ago armoured-car robbery but actually to get home before his wife Penny remarries. Yes, it’s The Odyssey, with John Goodman as the Cyclops and a KKK rally that might have been staged by Busby Berkeley.
Crowe, going back to his teenage years as a correspondent for Rolling Stone, sends his young alter-ego (Patrick Fugit) out on the road with the fictional band Stillwater to learn about life. It takes a special talent and a selective memory to set a story in the 70s and think of it as a more innocent time, but Crowe manages it, as well as directing the generally dour Billy Crudup in a charismatic performance as Stillwater’s “guitarist with mystique.”
INGRID RANDOJA’S Top 10 Movies
Lee melds romance, melodrama and dreamlike martial arts sequences in a stunning film that also makes the strongest feminist statement of the year. Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi are women heroes battling over a sword, while Yeoh’s shy love interest, Chow Yun-Fat, gracefully lingers in the background, asserting himself only when needed. The film is wrapped in a sense of wonder that stays with you long after it’s over.
The Sixth Sense was the director’s smart, showy startler. Unbreakable is his sombre, elegiac study of a superhero. Shyamalan’s fascination with death, children and the possibility that the supernatural world co-exists with our own never fails to intrigue, and more importantly, move. Plus, Bruce Willis turns in a beautiful performance.
In this year’s love story for adults, two strangers who meet for weekly sex fall in love, but just as in real life, they’re too frightened and perhaps too smart to believe it will last. Ouch, it hurts – but in that grown-up, wise way that lets us believe we could make the same mistakes and walk away with our dignity, too.
The premise that there’s a way-station on the way to heaven where you must pick one memory to keep for all eternity is so compelling, it’s hard not to be distracted by thinking about what you’d choose for yourself. A lovely, oddly structured and surprisingly sex-free odyssey.
Homer’s Odyssey retold by way of Preston Sturges by the wacked-out Coen Brothers. Sure, it’s light and relies on a cast of eclectic supporting characters to propel it, but damn, that George Clooney is mesmerizing. You can’t take your eyes off him. If this film doesn’t make Clooney the megastar he deserves to be, then the fix is in.
Figgis’s experiment of shooting a real-time film and then showing it in four separate sections onscreen is a fascinating mess. It’s about time someone treated celluloid like Play Doh, something to be played with. It’s the closest we’ve ever got, and perhaps should get, to interactive cinema. That alone makes it important.
Michael Douglas is an English professor and failed author whose midlife crisis explodes over a rainy weekend. The fact that this intelligent drama slipped under the radar is a shame, since it offers the year’s best dramatic ensemble cast – Douglas, Frances mcdormand, Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr. – in a study of self-delusion and self-acceptance.
Laura Linney delivers the year’s best female performance as a single mom dealing with a slacker brother, annoying boss and demanding boyfriend. Linney’s looks and talent can be compared to Meryl Streep’s she may be her heir apparent. In this brilliantly written role, Lonergan’s presented Linney with a great gift.
This is the only documentary that stayed with me the entire year. Gay man Stephen Matthews and his father Melvin were sentenced to 35 years in prison for allegedly molesting Stephen’s five-year-old son. They served three years before the charges were dropped. Pea talks to all involved, and what emerges is a frightening study of homophobia and a fucked-up judicial system.
I had the most fun sitting through this cheesecakey romp. It delivers three strong female action stars who know how to feather their bangs as well as deliver powerful roundhouse kicks. Where Crouching Tiger’s female stars are lyrical and graceful, Charlie’s Angels’ chicks are brash and in-your-face. And they’re all welcome this year.